Thursday, October 30, 2014

Birmingham Museum of Art/Oscar's Cafe to Host November 7 Open Mic Bards & Brews

A large crowd gathered at Central Library for October's Soul Foods Bards & Brews, part of BPL's Eat Drink Read Write Festival.

Oscar's Cafe at the Birmingham Museum of Art will host an open mic poetry event on Friday, November 7, 6:30-9:00 p.m. Craft beer will be available for sampling courtesy of Blue Pants Brewery and Good People Brewing Company; light refreshments will be served. Music by The Reflections. Attendees must be 18 years or older to be admitted, and 21 years or older to be served. IDs will be checked.

Special thanks to the Board of the Junior Patrons of the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Bards & Brews is usually held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around town. There will not be a Bards & Brews in December, but on January 9 there will be a poetry slam at Central Library. Check out the Bards & Brews page on Facebook for more information.

This program is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Join the Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals for Happy Hour at the Library

The BPLYP will host a mixer at Central Library on Tuesday, November 18, 6:00-7:30 p.m. Attendees must RSVP at 591-4944 or

In addition to showing your support for the BPLYP by attending Happy Hour at the Library, you may also support them by purchasing a Belk Charity Sale ticket. These tickets are available in the administration office at Central Library during regular business hours. Tickets are $5 and the sale is Saturday, November 8. Please be sure to buy your Belk charity ticket today.

Public Libraries in Jefferson County Provide New Resource for Preparing for the Alabama Driver's License Test

The Public Libraries In Jefferson County are providing a new free resource—the Alabama Driver’s Permit Practice Test. The test contains 40 multiple choice questions based on the official Alabama Driver’s Handbook. The test will assist those preparing for the Alabama driver’s license test with knowledge rules of the road and road signs in Alabama.

Every permit practice test presented on the website contains a series of multiple-choice questions. After the learner answers the questions, they immediately see whether the answer was correct or not. This resource does not issue any certificates of any type nor is it a substitute for the actual Alabama driver’s license test. After passing the permit practice tests it is recommended that the test taker check with their local Alabama Drivers Motor Vehicle office to book their exam time and date.

This resource should be especially helpful for young people preparing for the Alabama driver’s license test. However, a person of any age can take the tests. The resource is also available in many languages on the website, simply by clicking “Read Aloud” and then “Translate.”

For more information call your local Jefferson County public library, or visit or

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Resume Writing and How to Dress for Interviews Among Topics to Be Discussed in Job Searching Seminar at Inglenook Library, November 6

Do you want to brush up on your job searching skills, have your resume reviewed for free, and shop for interview clothes in the same place? Well, on November 6 at 9:30 a.m., the Inglenook Library will be hosting a job seminar which will be conducted by representatives of the Department of Human Resources (DHR) JOBS Program. They’ll present job searching skills and techniques ranging from resume writing to interviewing skills. At the end of the program, the representatives will also review resumes and provide tips and/or corrections that will maximize your resume viewing potential. My Sister's Closet, a partner of the YWCA, will also accompany representatives of the DHR JOBS Program to showcase appropriate interview clothing and to sell them at a minimum cost.

Additionally, the Inglenook Library has a plethora of books for you to further your research in leading an effective and productive job search. Check them out below.

The Overnight Résumé: The Fastest Way to Your Next Job 

What Color Is Your Parachute? Guide to Rethinking Interviews: Ace the Interview and Land Your Dream Job

This is How to Get Your Next Job: An Inside Look at What Employers Really Want

201 Knockout Answers to Tough Interview Questions: The Ultimate Guide to Handling the New Competency-based Interview Style

101 Toughest Interview Questions: —and Answers That Win the Job!

24 Hours to the Perfect Interview: Quick Steps for Planning, Organizing and Preparing for the Interview that Gets the Job

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Library

Find Family History @ Your Library

Recently while visiting with relatives in northern New Mexico, I learned that my grandfather immigrated to the United States from Mexico sometime in the 1920s. No one is sure why he decided to come to the United States so I decided to do some detective work using the resources available at BPL. I don’t remember a lot about my grandfather except I remember him telling me about the day General Pancho Villa and his army arrived in his village.

Who was Pancho Villa and why did he need an army? Using the online catalog I checked out these books: Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution by Frank Mclynn; The General and the Jaguar : Pershing's Hunt for Pancho Villa by Eileen Welsome; and Pancho Villa and Black Jack Pershing : the Punitive Expedition in Mexico by James W. Hurst. They provided some understanding of what was going on when he was growing up Mexico and about the colorful character, Pancho Villa.

To learn more about the Mexican Revolution and Cristero War, I went to the library’s databases that are available from the library and at home. From, I selected “Databases” then selected “History” from the subject list. From here I chose History Reference Center which includes full-text articles about US and world history. I searched Britannica Academic Online and Ebsco’s Master File Premier which offers biographical information as well as scholarly research. For biographical information about some of the notable personalities related to the Mexican revolution such as Emilio Zapata, Francisco Madero, and Porfirio Diaz, I searched Gale Biography in Context. With the wealth of family history tools available at BPL, I will continue to unravel the mystery of Jose R. Garcia and learn more about my Mexican ancestry.

William Darby
East Lake Library

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: The 40s: The Story of a Decade / The New Yorker

The 40s: The Story of a Decade / The New Yorker
Edited by Henry Finder with Giles Harvey

Many readers of The New Yorker will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the voice of the magazine, its style and its reporting, are nearly the same as when the magazine was writing the story of the World War II decade. Reading these New Yorker articles, contemporary accounts of world history and the life of the mind of that era, is to consistently remind oneself that the writers didn’t know how anything was going to turn out. We do not have to imagine the shock of Paris at the disintegration of their nation’s defenses in 1940. We can feel it through the writing of the New Yorker journalist, A. J Leibling, in Paris as France fell to the Nazis.

Which of the New Yorker essays we read today will be seen as essential to the history of our day?

Today we enjoy The New Yorker’s essay-form character studies and can enjoy the collection of studies from the 1940s. We meet Le Corbusier, the architectural genius, at the height of his power and fame, as he invades New York to plan the United Nations complex. He compared Manhattan to a rotting fish and said its buildings were too small and too close together. Unknown at the time was that the international movement he led would soon be seen as mistaken.

Contributors to this collection of essays and poetry include many writers still widely admired: Edmund Wilson, Rebecca West, John Hersey, and E. B. White among them. George Orwell, Lionel Trilling, and W. H. Auden offer reviews. Auden, Langston Hughes, Ogden Nash, and Stephen Spender are among the poets included. The great story by Shirley Jackson, "The Lottery," as well as stories by the great writers of a great age for writing: Carson McCullers, John O’Hara, John Cheever, and Irwin Shaw head the list.

This is an ideal book for half hour reads. Each essay gives one so much to ponder that it is difficult to think about reading the book straight through. If you love The New Yorker, you will love The 40s: The Story of a Decade.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

The Benefits of Senior Activities at the Library

The library is one of few places that our seniors can go to enjoy educational and fun-filled activities. Research shows both the acts of creative expression and social interaction are vital to the mental and physical well-being of senior citizens. Being able to express oneself can actually improve health, both mentally and physically.

Creative activities planned for our senior bring many rewarding benefits:

  • Reinforce essential connections between brain cells, including those connected to memory. 
  • Creativity strengthens morale. It alters the way we respond to problems and helps to keep a fresh perspective which makes us emotionally resilient.
  • Creative activities challenge the brain and can relieve sleep and mood disorders.
  • Reading, writing, and word games increase one’s working vocabulary and help to fend off forgetfulness.
  • Creativity promotes a positive outlook and sense of well-being which boosts the immune system and fights disease.
  • Having an active, creative life makes it easier to face adversity, including the loss of a spouse.

As people age they experience loss, they stop working, kids leave home, and often times they lose a spouse. Our programs bring people together to learn and share new things. We tend to help change the way people think about aging. The negative view is often turned positive as the room is once again filled with laughter and fun. We present opportunities to engage, encourage, and entertain.

Loretta Bitten
Powderly Library

Monday, October 27, 2014

Southern History Department's Book of the Month: Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Cookery

Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Cookery
Madame Elizabeth Kettenring Bégué

If you’re a fan of brunch or “second breakfast,” have a look through this cookbook and learn the history and recipes of one of the most famous restaurants ever to serve that meal. For many years in the nineteenth century, Bégués was an institution of New Orleans cookery and was famed for serving up “a Gargantuan feast that began at 11:00 o’clock in the morning and never ended until about 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon.” It would take a lot of walking through the Quarter to burn that off, assuming you could rise from the table afterwards.

The restaurant began as a coffee house under proprietor Louis Dutrey and at that time his wife, Elizabeth Kettenring, looked after the kitchen and was already turning out the kind of food that brought the customers in droves after they had finished their morning duties. When Dutrey died, Elizabeth married a butcher named Hypolite Bégué and by 1880 the restaurant, now named “Bégué’s,” was flourishing as a New Orleans institution and well on its way to being famous outside of New Orleans as well.

In her novel Saratoga Trunk, Edna Ferber has the heroine of the novel, the lovely and scandalous Clio Dulaine, indulge in breakfast at Bégué’s, where she divides her time between sampling the rich dishes and covertly eyeing the door to see if she has been followed by the handsome Texas cowboy Clint Maroon—all under the severely disapproving eye of her maidservant. “Yes! Burst your corsets! Stuff yourself!” With the restaurant offering selections like bisque of crayfish, veal omelets, shrimp and rice jambalaya, and floating islands with chocolate cream, it’s a mystery how any corsets in New Orleans survived this era.

Today the building that once housed Bégué’s is occupied by another restaurant, Tujague’s. Madame Bégué died in 1906 but many of her recipes have been preserved, to the good fortune of food-lovers everywhere. We are assured in this cookbook, by none other than Madame herself, that “the recipes herein given are original and of my own creation and are followed by me in the preparation of the dishes named.” You can’t ask for better credentials than that. Read, enjoy, and perhaps attempt to re-create these mouth-watering dishes. But before eating, be sure to remove your corset.

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Recent news stories involving domestic violence have drawn renewed attention to this important issue. Although these current stories have involved sports figures, domestic violence is a crime that may be experienced by anyone.

Major legislation addressing domestic violence is contained in the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, introduced by then-Senator Joe Biden. It appears as Title IV in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (September 13, 1994). The Act includes sections on federal penalties for sex crimes, such as mandatory restitution, and a grant for a national domestic violence hotline. The law also adds sections on interstate domestic violence and grants for rural domestic violence and child abuse enforcement and for community programs on domestic violence.

The law was reauthorized in 2013 as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (March 7, 2013).

Several websites, publications, and contact numbers contain very helpful information:

Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1-800-650-6522
Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women
Intimate Partner Violence
National Crime Victimization Survey
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Michelle Andrews
Government Documents
Central Library

What I Learned from Nancy Drew

I have dyslexia and was lucky enough to be in a school system that checked for this in 1966 when I was in third grade. I took some special classes and by fourth grade I was an avid reader. I started reading Helen Fuller Orton’s mysteries and when I had read all of those in the school’s library, I graduated to Nancy Drew. When I had finished all of the Nancy Drews in the school’s library, I started buying them at Kmart for $1.59 each. I earned money babysitting for children in the neighborhood at fifty cents an hour.

I collected the entire 64-book set of the Nancy Drew books in hardback and about the first five in paperback. Through the years, something will come up in conversation or reading and I’ll think, ”I learned that in a Nancy Drew book.” For example:  In The Secret of the Golden Pavilion, we learn that the silversword plant only grows in one place—the Haleakala Crater on the Hawaiian island of Maui—and on the island of Hawaii, there is a fern forest with ferns the size of trees; in The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes, Nancy learns how to play a chanter, a part of a set of bagpipes, and explains how bagpipes work; in The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, Nancy learns of dragon lore and that dragons with five claws are royal. You just never know when a Jeopardy answer can be solved with a Nancy Drew question.

Links of Interest:
The Nancy Drew Unofficial Home Page
Nancy Drew Sleuths
Beyond Nancy Drew: A Guide to Girls' Literature

Lynn Piper Carpenter
Five Points West Library

Watercolor Society of Alabama Annual Members' Showcase Will Be on Display Through October 31

The Ancient Splendor, Chenghao Li

Nearly 60 aqua media works from across the state will be on display September 21–October 31 during the 2014 Watercolor Society of Alabama Annual Members' Showcase at the Central Library. The free exhibit will be in the library’s Fourth Floor Gallery.

E. Gordon West of San Antonio, Texas, is the selection juror. West has received numerous awards in national exhibitions and has works in the permanent collections of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas A&M University, and the University of Louisville. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville and studied at the Chicago Art Institute.

Steve Rogers of Ormond Beach, Florida is the awards juror. His artwork has won international awards. He was the Purchase Award Winner of the 2006 National Watercolor Society “Best of Show.” His paintings have won four awards in the American Watercolor Society Annual International Exhibitions. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill.

For information about the library exhibit, call 226-3670 or send emails to

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Final Session in Bank on Birmingham Financial Series to Be Held at Community Education South, October 28

A sound understanding of banks and banking plays an important part in assuring one’s personal financial health. Acquiring such an understanding, however, takes some time and effort. In the world of banking, there exist different kinds of institutions offering a variety of accounts, products, and investment opportunities. But it is not a matter of one size fits all; which banking services are suitable for you depends upon your particular circumstances, needs, and goals. Therefore, in order to make good decisions about banks, you should try to get good, solid information about what is available so that you can compare their offerings with your priorities.

Bank on Birmingham (BoB) is a local non-profit organization that was created to provide information to the public about banking products and services. The membership of Bank on Birmingham, which consists of both local financial institutions and community organizations, is particularly interested in reaching low and moderate income consumers who have been underserved by the banking industry. Through advocacy, education, and outreach, BoB strives to make better banking awareness a catalyst for increasing the financial self-sufficiency of individuals and families in the Birmingham area.

As part of its educational initiative, Bank on Birmingham is holding a series of Snack and Learn events at several locations of the Birmingham Public Library during September and October of 2014. Two similar events will be held at Community Education South. These events are scheduled to last about an hour and BoB representatives will be available to share their knowledge on a variety of topics including banking, credit, budgeting, identity theft, home ownership, and small business finance. Light refreshments will be served. Both adults and older youth are encouraged to attend.

The Snack and Learn events are free but registration is required. You can register online on the Events Calendar page on Bank on Birmingham’s website or at the library location where the event is being held:

Final Session:

Community Education South
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
5:30-6:30 p.m.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Food Drive at Five Points West Library Helps Central Park Baptist Church Food Bank

The Five Points West Regional Branch Library began as the Central Park Library in the mid-1930s. It moved from upstairs at Fire Station number 24 to the Central Park Recreation Center to the Central Park Library Building on Bessemer Road to the Britlings Cafeteria Building on Avenue V to its present location at the Five Points West Library. It houses the Literacy and Outreach Office.

The Food for Fines Drive here at the Five Points West Library (FPW) was a major success! Patrons from all across the city and county donated canned foods and non-perishable items during the month of September. A maximum of $10.00 in fines could be waived for 10 non-perishable food items donated.

FPW Circulation Department staff—Andrei, Darrell, Nese, and Tammie—boxed up the items to donate to the Central Park Baptist Church Food Bank, 1900 43rd Street, Ensley. The Central Park Baptist Church has been a part of this neighborhood for over 50 years and we have been donating our canned goods to Central Park Baptist Church food bank for at least 10 years. Ms. Tracy, one of our faithful patrons, is the secretary and contact person for the food bank.

What a wonderful pleasure to know that the can goods that we collected here at the Five Points West Library are going to a worthy cause to help local families in need.

Andrei Jones
Five Points West Library

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dalai Lama Events at Birmingham Public Library Scheduled for October 14-23

To help the public learn more about the Dalai Lama prior to his Birmingham visit in late October, the Birmingham Public Library will offer several free programs and resources.

The following locations will feature free screenings of the documentary 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama:

Wednesday, October 15, 12:00  p.m., Central Library
Tuesday, October 21, 12:00 p.m., Avondale Library
Tuesday, October 21, 6:30 p.m., Springville Road Library
Wednesday, October 22, 6:30 p.m., East Lake Library
Thursday, October 23, 10:00 a.m., Smithfield Library
Thursday, October 23, 11:00 a.m., Titusville Library

A resource list about books and DVDs on His Holiness will be available at Birmingham library locations in October.

Part of Human Rights Week will include the city's A Celebration of the Human Spirit Film Festival, a two-day film festival with movies that celebrate the human spirit, the quest for freedom, and the power of individuals to change the world. Walden Media will host free screenings on Friday, October 24, at the Birmingham Museum of Art, and on Saturday, October 25, at the Alabama Theatre.

One of the movies is The Giver, a 2014 film based on Lois Lowry's young adult novel of the same name. The book was the winner of the 1994 Newberry Medal and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Lowry will attend the Friday, October 24 screening. The book is also one that the Birmingham Public Library gave free to patrons this fall as part of its Read It Forward campaign. Libraries in downtown Birmingham, Ensley, North Birmingham, Five Points West, Woodlawn, West End, Wylam, Avondale, and Titusville still have free copies of the book.

The four Walden Media films are free, but attendees must register in advance via EventBrite. Here's the schedule:

Friday, October 24, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Birmingham Museum of Art, 7:00 p.m.

Friday, October 24, The Giver, Birmingham Museum of Art, 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 25, I Am David, Alabama Theatre, 2:00  p.m.

Saturday, October 25, Amazing Grace, Alabama Theatre, 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

BPL Staff Supports Community As Part of Training Day

Staff Modeling Up-Cycled Scarves and Bags

Last week the staff of the Birmingham Public Library gathered together for the annual day of training. Every year on this day, the staff supports the community by collecting Christmas toys for Mayor's Office-Division of Youth Services and canned food for the local food banks.

This year a new opportunity to support the Birmingham community was initiated by the library's United Way coordinator, Stephanie George. Stephanie, who has a passion for crafting and recycling, asked staff to help her with her United Way fundraiser by donating old T-shirts. She took the used T-shirts and up-cycled them by creating beautiful scarves and bags. The scarves and bags were sold for five dollars each during the day and $475 was raised. The fund raiser not only made use of recycled materials, but was also a fun and creative way to support a most worthy cause. The BPL staff look forward to seeing what new fundraising project Stephanie creates next year.

Stephanie George 

The City of Birmingham and the Birmingham Public Library to Show Free Film Screenings Prior to the Dalai Lama's October 26 Visit

The Dalai Lama will be in Birmingham this week as part of Human Rights Week. Prior to his public appearance on Sunday, October 26, at Regions Field, the City of Birmingham and the Birmingham Public Library have planned several free film screenings that celebrate the human spirit, the quest for freedom, and the power of individuals to change the world.

Several library locations will show the documentary Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama, October 21-23:

Wednesday, October 22, 6:30 p.m., East Lake Library
Thursday, October 23, 10:00 a.m., Smithfield Library
Thursday, October 23, 11:00 a.m., Titusville Library

Walden Media will host free screenings of different films on Friday, October 24, at the Birmingham Museum of Art and on Saturday, October 25, at the Alabama Theatre.

The four Walden Media films are free, but attendees must register in advance, via Eventbrite. Here's the schedule:

Friday, October 24, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Birmingham Museum of Art, 7:00  p.m.

Friday, October 24, The Giver, Birmingham Museum of Art, 9:00  p.m.

Saturday, October 25, I Am David, Alabama Theatre, 2:00  p.m.

Saturday, October 25, Amazing Grace, Alabama Theatre, 7:00 p.m.

For ticket information about the Dalai Lama's October 26 appearance at Regions Field, please visit

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Magic City Classic Comes to Birmingham, October 25

The Magic City Classic is an annual American football "classic" between  Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University, two of Alabama's most prominent historically black universities. The game is payed at Legion Field in Birmingham, and some of the festivities held in conjunction with the game include a parade and the "Battle of the Bands" between the two schools' marching bands.

In the early seventies, I had a memorable experience—one of excitement, curiosity and fascination. I was curious as to why my mother dressed me in my finest to sit outside in the frigid temperature, and excited to attend one of the most renowned HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) football games. It was formerly known as the "Classic,” but later the name was changed to the "Magic City Classic.” I was also excited by the number of people gathered at the Classic, or as some labeled it,  “The Fashion Show,” where they dressed in their finest consisting of long fur coats with matching hats, leather suits, and, leather gloves. The half-time featured performing bands and presentation of the homecoming court in beautiful dresses, long gloves, and tiaras. I was not fascinated with the football game itself, but I was fascinated by how family and friends bonded and the camaraderie of attending a HBCU game, even if they didn't attend either school.

Years later, the Magic City Classic has transformed the city: the economy flourishes, RVs arrive a week early to secure a good parking space, vendors abound, stylish cars are everywhere, sky shows are broadcast with radio personalities Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey, tailgating is de rigueur, and T-shirts are high-fashion.

Located in the center of the classic festivities is the Smithfield Library, (formerly the Booker T. Washington Library and the first library for blacks in the state of Alabama), a vital link and iconic landmark located in one of Birmingham’s most historical districts. Because the streets around the library are blocked off for the game, Smithfield library will close at 1:00 pm. on Friday, October 24, and will be closed on Saturday, October 25.

It's time for family, fun, and good food! See you next year!

University Websites

Magic City Classic Schedule of Events

Magic City State-Farm Facebook

Historically Black Colleges and University Resources
I'll Find a Way or Make One: A Tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities
History of African American Colleges and Universities

Black Colleges and Football Resources
Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights 
Integrating the Gridiron: Black Civil Rights and American College Football


Yolanda Hardy
Smithfield Library

Monday, October 20, 2014

November is National Novel Writing Month!

If you've ever thought about writing a novel, it's time to blow the dust off your keyboard and get busy!

National Novel Writing Month challenges people of all ages to write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November. This year, NaNoWriMo expects 400,000 participants from 616 affiliated chapters across six continents. “Every year, we're reminded that there are still stories that have yet to be told, still voices yet to be heard from all corners of the world,” says Executive Director Grant Faulkner. “NaNoWriMo helps people make creativity a priority in life and realize the vital ways our stories connect us. We are our stories.”

To participate is easy: simply sign up at Writing begins on November 1 and ends at midnight on November 30. Anyone who crosses the 50,000-word finish line is declared a Winner. In the meantime, NaNoWriMo lets burgeoning writers connect with a worldwide community of like-minded novelists through discussion forums, online chats, and weekly "pep talks" from big-name authors such as Jim Butcher, Tamora Pierce, Brandon Sanderson, and many more! Local events and meet-ups are organized in communities across the globe by a legion of volunteer Municipal Liaisons (Birmingham's is none other than yours truly, BPL Collection Management librarian Jared Millet).

To be clear, National Novel Writing Month is not a writing contest in the traditional sense. There are no judges to grade the quality of your work and there is no Grand Prize of publication at the end. It is a marathon, plain and simple. To produce a novel worthy of publication requires years of editing, revision, and mastering the craft of authorship. NaNoWriMo is a path to that all-important first draft and turns the dream of writing a novel "some day" into the reality of writing a novel now.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Librarian's Guide to Interviewing

Ziggy interviewing cartoon

One of the remarkable things about being a librarian is that some people think we know everything.  It never ceases to amaze me how often people ask for my opinion or ask me a question about something in which I have no expertise.  For example, people walk up with all manner of cell phones and ask various questions about them.  I have a Windows phone, which definitely puts me in the minority, so when someone asks me how to do something on an iPhone or Android phone, I may be able to figure it out, but I have no first-hand experience.  The same is true for various laptops, tablets, etc.  

Since people ask for my opinion on various topics, I’ve decided to discuss a topic that I have experience with, but I’m in no way an expert.  I have interviewed and hired people to fill vacant positions, as needed, for many years.  I have also co-interviewed with others who were filling vacant positions.  I’m not a human resources professional, but based on my personal experience hiring people, I am going to give you, the reading public, some tips on interviewing.

Tip 1:  Read the job description.  If you are applying for a job that requires you to spend your shift shelving books, you do not have a desk job.

Tip 2:  Know something about the company you are applying with.  Question: How often do you use the library?  Answer: I haven't been in a library since high school.  Unless you just graduated, chances are that things have changed.

Tip 3:  Dress like you are going to a job interview.  Your outfit might look great at a nightclub, but since you aren't headed to one, you may want to change clothes.

Tip 4:  Arrive early for your interview or at the very least, be on time.  Keep in mind that the interviewer has scheduled it at a specific time for a reason.  Showing up late not only gives a bad impression, it throws the interviewer’s schedule into disarray.  Call if you're going to be late, don't wait to apologize once you get there.

Tip 5:  If you want the job, don’t make insulting comments about the interviewers, the questions they ask, or the company you are applying with.  I have been amazed over the years at some of the things applicants have said during the interview.  I’m thinking, “he or she didn’t just say that.”

Tip 6:  If you want an expert’s advice about interviewing, consult the resources we have at the library.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Renasant Offers Entrepreneurial Success Series

Renasant Bank is reaching out to help small businesses succeed with a free six-part entrepreneurial success series. Series topics include Financial Management, Networking and Relationship Building, Social Media, Tax Information, Business Plan Components, Human Resources and Access to Capital.

Renasant staff and local experts are leading these valuable learning sessions throughout the Birmingham and Shelby County communities. The event is co-sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library System and Trudy Phillips Consulting. Complementary refreshments will be served.

Tracey Morant Adams, Senior Vice President Small Business and Community Development Director said of the series, ‘This free series is part of Renasant Bank’s continuing commitment to further the success of small business owners and entrepreneurs in our area. We are pleased to provide valuable tools and insight to help our local community businesses thrive and flourish.”

To register for any of the sessions, please visit:


Financing, Lending Sources and Credit
Pratt City Library
October 23, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Self-employed & Small Business Tax Workshop
Woodlawn Public Library
November 20, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

One-Page Business Plan with Financial Projections
Alabaster City Hall
January 15, 2015
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Contract Employees vs. Full Time Employees
Avondale Public Library
February 12, 2015
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Children's Book Reivew: Coraline

Neil Gaiman

This time of year kids and parents are always looking for a spooky story. One of my all-time favorites is Neil Gaiman’s novella, Coraline. I think it’s the perfect Halloween read for (almost) all ages.

Coraline is a little girl who is bored and lonely. Her parents’ eyes are always glued to their computers. They have just moved into a new building in a different neighborhood, an old mansion divided into flats. Without a sibling or a friend to play with Coraline explores the creaky old building and finds companionship with the wacky neighbors. Coraline becomes acquainted with Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, two old ladies retired from show business, and Mr. Bobo, who is allegedly in the process of training a mouse circus. One rainy day when she is confined to the house, Coraline finds a peculiar door in her living room. Her curiosity is piqued when she opens the door to find the entrance bricked up. The neighbors all warn her to stay away from the mysterious door, but Coraline is a curious and stubborn soul, she has to investigate.

She opens through the door again and finds the brick barrier vanished. She follows the hallway into the Other World. She finds a flat much like her own with a family that is a lot like her family. Her Other Mother and Other Father bear a striking resemblance to her own parents, but there a few altered details. The most unsettling is that they have buttons sewn onto their faces where their eyes should be. For Coraline, it can almost be overlooked as the Other Parents are attentive and exciting. In fact, everything in the Other World is more interesting—her neighbors and toys are much more entertaining and she even meets a talking cat! However, all good things must come to an end and Coraline needs to go back into her real world. But the Other Mother offers Coraline a chance to stay forever. All she has to do is allow her to sew black buttons over her eyes. Obviously, this seems a very bad deal for Coraline, who flees in terror and makes it safely back to her side of the world.

There’s just one problem: her real parents. Coraline can’t find them anywhere in the apartment. She spends the next couple of days alone and afraid until she finds her family imprisoned behind the mirror. She correctly deduces that the Other Mother is behind this and she has no choice but to confront her to rescue her family. Coraline has to use her courage, wits, and help from a trio of ghost children (the Other Mother’s previous victims) to free her parents and the spirits of the children.

This book practically begs to be read aloud. Either by a parent or Neil Gaiman himself (the audiobook is fabulous!). It’s certainly horrific but in a way that will give kids a good dose of the creeps without keeping them up at night. The premise is certainly horrific. The thought of having buttons sewn over your eyes and your family spirited away is truly upsetting, but Gaiman’s clever writing keeps the tone lighthearted and it helps to take the edge off. I would recommend it for elementary school students at the youngest and it’s a great read for middle school, high school, and even adults. It is a creepy story for sure, so if you have a child in your family that scares easily you might want to try it first to see what it’s like.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

Popular Birmingham Noir Walking Tours Scheduled for October 26 and 30

Which of these buildings was home to Birmingham's most famous brothel?

Birmingham Noir: A Nighttime Walking Tour of Notorious Downtown Historic Sites

Fallen Women

October 26 and 30, 2014

Put on your walking shoes and join Birmingham Public Library Archivist Jim Baggett for a visit to some of Birmingham’s most infamous historic places. Learn about the Magic City’s most famous brothel, spectacular 19th century murders, political intrigues, and the scandal that nearly destroyed Bull Connor’s career.

Admission is free, but reservations are required and spaces are limited. These tours always fill early.

The tours begin at 5:45 p.m. in the atrium of the Central Library and last approximately 90 minutes. The tours end back at the library so visitors are welcome to park in the library’s lot.

To make a reservation contact Jim Baggett at

Back to Basics: Beginner Computer Classes offered for November

How do you turn this on? Why is this called a mouse? Why is it called "Windows," and where are the curtains? 

It seems that practically everything we do uses a computer. For many who have never dealt with a computer, these every-day operations can be daunting. Just the terminology alone can send someone screaming back to the pre-Y2K hills!

The Regional Library Computer Center offers basics courses to introduce people to computers. The courses and trainers help technology newbies become less intimidated with working on a PC. All it requires in taking the first step and then one-step at a time. It takes time and practice.

For those who have had a class or more under their belt, here are some web sites for practice. The more you become familiar with the basics, the sooner you can take the next step.

Mouse Exercises Tutorials:
  • The Palm Beach County Library offers tutorials to help beginners learn to use the mouse. The “Mousing Around” tutorial is a more detailed session. “Mousercise” helps you practice mousing skills learned from “Mousing Around” or other lessons. “Practice Games” are fun ways to practice your mousing skills.
Typing Tutorials:

  • TypingWeb is a free online typing tutor & keyboarding tutorial for typists of all skill levels. TypingWeb includes entertaining typing games, typing tests, and free official typing certification.
  • This website had typing tutorials and a typing speed test. There is also a kids section. You do need to enter an email address to register for this site. The only drawback is the advertising on the site, which gives it a cluttered appearance.
  • The virtual keyboard allows you to practice your touch typing skills. Go to the site, select your keyboard, and give it a try.
  • This website has typing lessons that also provide feedback when you make a mistake. You can see how fast and how accurate you are typing. Make sure you look for the QWERTY link for lessons on the QWERTY keyboard. Begin with lesson 1 and proceed as you wish.
November classes are also open for registration. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center, located on the fourth floor of the Linn-Henley Research Building. Registration is required for all classes. Please note that we will not offer classes in December.

Legal Services Alabama to Offer Will Preparation Services at East Lake Library, October 23

Legal Services Alabama, a nonprofit law firm in Birmingham, will offer will preparation services at the East Lake Library. They were on hand at Central and North Birmingham Libraries in August and September to offer assistance.

To qualify for a free will, a person must be a Birmingham resident and must fall into one of the required income areas: under $34,200 for a single person; $39,050 or less for a family of two; $43,950 or less for a family of three; or $48,800 or less for a family of four. For those unable to meet the income requirements but are over 60 years old, the law firm may still be able to help.

East Lake Library
Thursday, October 23, 2014
9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

"Basically, we think everybody should have a will. If you have parents or kids, you should have a will,'' said Dru Clark, an attorney with Legal Services Alabama. Those also in need of a will should be anyone: owning a home, with a bank account, with elderly parents, with dependents with special needs, or without close relatives but interested in leaving items to a friend.

"The goal of the wills clinic is to raise awareness of how easy it is to get a will done. It's not a painful experience,'' Clark said. "There's a stigma associated with a will - that you will die tomorrow. But that's not the case. Having a will is just good planning.''

Those needing help with what to do with a loved one's estate may also seek help during the clinics. The service is part of “Preserving the Wealth of Our Communities Project (PWOCP),” which is made possible because of Birmingham Mayor William Bell's RISE initiative. The RISE initiative is an effort to strengthen neighborhoods, eliminate blight, and increase property values. The program is also for low-to-moderate income property owners and senior citizens of Birmingham.

For more information, call Dru Clark at 205-328-3540, ext. 3508.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pratt City Community to Celebrate Red Ribbon Day, October 18

One of the entries in the Red Ribbon Day contest. 

Pratt City Library staff members Lenairria Creer, Fannie Jolly, Alexandria Mitchell, and Deborah Blackmon will serve on a panel of judges to decide the winners of the Red Ribbon Day poster contest. Students from South Hampton Elementary and Jackson Olin High School designed posters using the theme "Love Yourself. Be Drug Free."

Red Ribbon Day is an annual event observed in the Pratt City community and across the country that focuses on drug, alcohol, and violence prevention. The National Family Partnership organized the first Nationwide Red Ribbon Campaign to recognize two DEA agents murdered in Guadalajara, Mexico. Since its beginning in 1985, the Red Ribbon has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. Angene Coleman, representative from Olivia's House, and residents will be on hand to help promote the program and enjoy the festivities.

Red Ribbon Day will be held Saturday, October 18, 2014, in the heart of Pratt City on Carline Avenue. Come sign the Red Ribbon Pledge and enjoy food, live music, health fairs, and more. First, second, and third place prizes will be awarded to the winners of the poster contest.

Deborah Drake
Pratt City Library

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ebola: Facts Not Fear

The New Yorker’s  The Borowitz Report headline from October 7, 2014, trumpets the alarming news: “Man Infected with Ebola Misinformation Through Casual Contact with Cable News!” Funny yes, but with a serious dig at the news media’s repeated attempts to make the disease even more alarming to the U.S. public than it naturally should be. This situation of course points to a basic truth long recognized by 21st century librarians: we are all awash in information, not all of it is reliable, and critical evaluation skills are vital in separating the wheat from the chaff.

What about those “critical evaluation skills?” In “crisis” news situations like Ebola especially, they involve staying calm and taking a minute to ask yourself some basic questions about the source of information:
  • Who/what organization is it that’s producing the information? Are they a known and generally reliable source? What expertise in the subject can they claim or reference to back up statements in their news items?
  • Is there a potential for bias in the presentation of the information? In terms of the Ebola reporting, remember that news media have a potential conflict of interest in hyping the seriousness of the outbreak in order to attract more viewers. This is not to say that all of the news outlets are overplaying the story, but just a caution that there is a possible ulterior motive for doing so.
  • How current is the information? Not only do news reports themselves have a short lifespan in this day and age, but developments in medicine can evolve rapidly. If you’re looking at a report on Ebola from even a few days ago, be aware the facts on the ground – good and bad – may have changed since then.
As partners in the Health InfoNet of Alabama health information service for residents, the state’s public and medical librarians take seriously our role in steering users to reliable sources of health information as well as educating users on how to be savvy health information consumers.

What are some of those more reliable (than cable news) resources for Ebola information? They include:
Also, it may be useful to check out some of the health news review sites such as and PubMed Health’s “Behind Headlines” section on for analysis of health news stories regarding Ebola or any health topic.

In summary – don’t panic, regardless of what the media or anyone tells you! Keep calm, inform yourself thoroughly and with an eye to the reliability, potential for bias and currency of the information, and carry on. And remember to ask your local librarian for help or call the Health InfoNet of Alabama toll-free number at 1-855-463-6638!

Kay Hogan Smith
Librarian and Project Director, Health InfoNet of Alabama

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